One of the most confident people I’ve ever met was the dude from Texas who came up to me while I was manning the meat-carving station at the sandwich shop and asked me to cook his meat for him.
“I have a group of investors coming up here for a meeting from Texas, and they insisted brisket. So I picked it up and it’s already been smoked, but I need someone to heat it up. I’d be happy to give you some. Can you do it?”
He didn’t offer to pay, or anything. I had never seen this guy before. But I cooked the damn brisket. And I did, indeed, take some for myself and for my coworkers. I’d never had genuine Texas brisket before. It tasted great, but it was the smokiest thing I’ve ever eaten, and I once chugged a bottle of liquid smoke. The guy also said he would give me a good Yelp review. Which he did.
He came back several times over the next year to do the same thing. One day I told him I was too busy, and he said he’d pay $150. I told him my schedule had miraculously cleared up. I found out that he’d asked around the building (the sandwich shop was in an office building) for who to bring it to, and we were recommended. It made sense. We were a small, privately owned place, so we didn’t have corporate rules. And the fun thing about working there was that it was 80% regulars, from the building and nearby offices, and I got to be good friends with a lot of the lawyers and brokers and marketing managers for architecture firms. So I’m sure they told Mr. Texas — who sounded like he was born not in Texas but in actually inside a TV ad for athletics equipment — that we were the ones to come to.
Today, when I bought a piece of chicken breast and decided to ask someone at a restaurant to cook it, I took no such preparatory measures. After all, my goal wasn’t to actually get it cooked, but just to successfully ask under awkward circumstances. So I picked a fast food place.
I decided to go for Burger King, for reasons that are so obvious I won’t even explain them here. Nor are they arbitrary or out of my ass — you can count on that. I didn’t know where a Burger King was, but I was pretty sure there was one along the main drag near my house. I was a little nervous as I drove, but not too bad. Until I saw a Jack in the Box.
I knew I should go there. I didn’t have that much time before my wife got out of work, after all, and I had to go make dinner. Jack in the Box was just as good a choice, and it was right there. I think that’s what put that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was right there. I actually had to do this.
“No,” I told myself. “No, it has to be a Burger King. Keep looking.”
Even inside of my head that sounded ridiculous. Two blocks later I turned around and drove back to the Jack in the Box.
There were two people ahead of me in line, and a few came in right behind me. The thought of doing it in front of an audience made me even more nervous. But that was the point, right? The cashier kept having to run off and do other things, and he spent several minutes trying to open a roll of quarters. I worried that my voice would shake and I would sound like a gibbering nervous idiot.
Finally, it was my turn.
“What can we get for you?” asked the cashier.
“I have this chicken breast,” I said, pulling its bag out of a larger bag. “I’d like you guys to cook it for me.” My voice sounded even and confident. Good to know.
He smiled and said, “No, we don’t do that. Sorry.”
I thanked him and left.
That was it!
Just like the $30 for snacks, I got all worked up and then it turned out to be disappointingly easy. In fact, it seems like all of these challenges turn out easy, like it wasn’t even worth getting so worked up about them in the first place. I think there might be some hidden lesson there. And by “hidden,” I mean “the exact lesson I was trying to teach myself from these challenges in the first place.”
This morning I felt nervous, and even thought about ditching this whole thing. But after today I am totally invigorated. Tomorrow, Space Waffles await!